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Wear blue on Friday to increase awareness for colorectal cancer

Posted 4 March 2014 at 12:00 am

By Nola Goodrich-Kresse, Public Health Educator for the Orleans County Health Department

This Friday, March 7, is National Dress in Blue Day to increase awareness of colorectal cancer. The Orleans County Health Department is encouraging everyone to wear blue on the 7th, to promote Colorectal Cancer Awareness Week.

So, what exactly is colorectal cancer? It is sometimes called a silent disease because the warning signs may not be noticeable and many feel uncomfortable talking about it. The problem is the longer you go without checking into it, the bigger the problem becomes, literally. So swallow your uneasiness and learn more about this cancer.

The good news however, is colon cancer is 90 percent curable when detected early so colorectal screening can save your life.

Colorectal cancer refers to cancer in two different parts of the digestive tract, the colon and the rectum.  The following are certain factors that increase a person’s risk for getting the disease:

A family history of colon cancer.

A personal history of colon cancer.

A personal history of intestinal polyps.  A polyp is a mass of tissue that develops on the inside wall of a hollow organ such as the colon. Polyps are benign (non-cancerous), but may become cancerous over time. Most, perhaps all, colorectal cancers develop in polyps.

A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease also known as ulcerative colitis.

Aging. Colorectal cancers occur most often in people over the age of 50 and the risk gets higher as the person gets older.

A high-fat or low-fiber diet.  A healthy diet also reduces major sources of fat such as meat, dairy products, and oils used in cooking and salad dressings. A healthy diet also contains fiber from vegetables, fruits, whole grain breads and cereal.

Physical inactivity. It is recommended that everyone engage in physical exercise at least 30 minutes per day most days of the week.

So, how do you find out more about colorectal cancer? If you are 50 and older or any of the above items describe you, talk with your doctor about screening. If you are uninsured or have a high deductible, you may qualify for free cancer screening.

To see if you are eligible call Community Partners / The Cancer Services Program of Genesee and Orleans County at 798-6641 or 344-5497 and for the Wyoming County Cancer Services Program call 786-8890.

The important key to fighting colorectal cancer is knowing your body and being aware of potential symptoms no matter how old you are.  Some warning signs to look for include:

A change in bowel habits

Frequent gas pains

Weight loss with no known reason

Stools that are narrower than usual

A feeling that the bowel does not empty completely

Blood in or on the stool

Constant tiredness

Diarrhea or constipation

General stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness, and/or cramps)

One of the tests used to aid in diagnosis is called the FIT (fecal immunochemical test) kit -it is easy, there are no dietary or medication restrictions – just swish the brush (not scoop the poop)!  This test is done in the privacy of your home. It is only a test for blood and not a test that directly detects cancer. This test is used because colorectal cancer may cause bleeding that cannot be seen. Other conditions (ulcerative colitis, intestinal polyps) may also cause bleeding, so having blood in the stool does not always mean a person has cancer.

So do not make any excuses about not being checked for colorectal cancer. If you are at risk or are experiencing any of the warning signs talk to your doctor now. It may be nothing which is great, but if it is something, get it taken care of so it doesn’t get worse. Remember, there is no excuse worth your life!

Pull out your best blues on Friday and join us as we encourage others to be aware of colorectal cancer.